Local rock band Blastov will make its live
debut Saturday during a special holiday show
at 340 Creative Group, featuring headliner Five Eight. (Special to the Herald)
ALBANY — Formed more than 10 years ago, local rock band Blastov will finally blast off later this month when the group makes its live debut opening for seminal Athens rock group Five Eight at a special holiday concert being held at 340 Creative Group in Albany.
Blastov was dreamed into existence more than a decade ago when Albany musicians Chris Hayes and Frank Daniel started writing songs as a creative outlet away from Discount Superstar, an ’80s cover band that featured Hayes on bass and Daniel on guitar.
“We started doing this out of necessity,” Hayes said. “Really, writing original music is where it’s at for most musicians.”
Hayes said he and Daniel just started jamming with folks they knew while working on music more akin to what the two of them grew up listening to.
“Discount was fun, but it was ’80s music,” Hayes said. “We wanted to write stuff that we really liked, influenced by the bands we listened to, like the Pixies, Husker Du and the Jesus Lizard.”
Hayes said the pair began writing songs over the course of about two years before hooking up with Albany guitarist Jon Wilson. Once Wilson joined the fold, Hayes said, the side project truly began to gel and Blastov was born.
“We found Jon, and it just fit like a glove,” Hayes said. “He wrote amazing stuff, and we were able to write things with him that sounded great.”
With Wilson in the group, helping with songwriting ideas, the band truly began to take shape and the trio began searching for a drummer.
After auditioning dozens of possible players, it was actually a chance conversation about a hat that led the band to its skinman, Ryan Boyd.
As the story goes, Boyd and Daniel bumped into each other casually a few times through their work when one day Boyd noticed Daniel wearing a Fender ball cap. Boyd, who was playing in a band out of Macon at the time, recognized Fender as a company that makes guitar amplifiers and decided to strike up a conversation with Daniel over music, which eventually led to Boyd joining the group.
“I would see Frank at his job when I had to go into the place he was working for stuff we needed on our jobs, and one day he was wearing this Fender hat,” Boyd said. “You just don’t really see people walking around wearing Fender hats, so I decided to talk to him about music.”
According to Hayes, the hat might have led to the conversation, but it was Boyd’s ability and the way he gelled with the other players that got him in the lineup.
“We jammed with a lot of great guys, and great drummers, but just couldn’t find the right fit,” Hayes said. “There was just something about the way Ryan played the songs that clicked for us. Plus he was pretty persistent and really showed that he wanted to be a part of it.”
With a permanent drummer on board, the group began looking toward the future. But life suddenly got in the way.
Hayes, who has worked for years as a real estate appraiser, had been expanding his business and in 2007 moved his family to Atlanta for better opportunities.
“I had a family and had to take care of them, and as much as I loved playing in the band, I had to make that choice,” Hayes said.
Around that same time, Wilson became a father, which limited his availability as well.
“What can I say? I became a dad,” Wilson said. “Needless to say, I didn’t really have a lot of free time with that added responsibility in my life.”
Despite temporarily shelving the band, Wilson continued to write new music as a solo artist, called Father One. In addition to new songs, Wilson continued to work on the songs Blastov had started, acting as a sort of creative curator.
“I just loved what we had worked on, and I thought they were very good songs,” he said. “For me, it’s kind of like a life project. I just felt like things would eventually work out to where we could pick it back up again.”
After living in Atlanta for five years, Hayes returned to Albany, opening up that possibility again.
Not long after he returned, Hayes and Daniel reconnected and began playing in local band Another Alien Astronaut (AAA). After playing a handful of shows and recording an album, AAA disbanded and the two were left without a musical outlet.
But Wilson and Hayes had been messaging each other for some time, talking about jamming on some of the old Blastov tunes. With their most recent endeavor now finished, Hayes and Daniel turned their attention back to Blastov with a renewed vigor.
“We had a lot of fun playing in AAA,” Hayes said. “But this just feels like us. I felt compelled to do this again.”
For his part Boyd, who had pretty much stopped playing drums altogether, said the opportunity came at the perfect time.
“I got busy doing other things and really wasn’t playing drums at all anymore,” he said. “I had actually been wanting to get back to playing but hadn’t decided on anything. When Chris sent me a text telling me to come on, I was all for it.”
According to Hayes, as soon as the foursome got back together, he felt like it was something special and they were meant to be playing together.
“It’s my new old band,” he said. “It’s a new thing, but it’s also like being home again. I feel like this is something special.”
One difference between the “new old band” this go-around is that the foursome is now a fivesome, adding vocalist Ross Smith to the fold. Hayes said previously he and Wilson had handled the singing but had always thought about having a vocalist to allow the two to focus on playing.
The guys knew Smith from his days playing a lot of open mic nights around Albany, so they sent him a tape of songs and asked if he would be interested in learning them and coming to a practice.
“We sent him a tape of two songs with Jon singing, and not only did he learn them very quickly, he did a great job,” Hayes said. “He was faithful to the songs, but at the same he added his own feel, which fit perfectly.”
In addition to becoming the vocalist, Smith also began contributing to the songwriting process, bringing ideas for lyrics and melody to the table, something the others feel is very important to the group.
“We share equally in everything,” Hayes said. “It’s totally collaborative. We all write together, and all songs are by Blastov.”
With the lineup complete and a handful of original tunes polished and ready to go, the boys in the band are really excited to hit the stage this month.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Hayes said. “We’re just ready to play because we love what we’re doing. If others like it, then that’s cool, too.”
Hayes said Blastov’s debut performance will be even more memorable coming as an opening for Five Eight.
“(Rabid Five Eight fan) Wes Sadler had a conversation with me at a restaurant several months ago,” Hayes said. “He mentioned that he and I should go in together on producing a show for the band. I told him that was a great idea and that I had the perfect opening act in mind.”
Formed in founding members Mike Mantioni and Dan Horowitz’s hometown, Binghamton, N.Y., Five Eight came south to Athens in an effort to join the college city’s thriving music scene. Hailed by critics as one of the most talented bands in the region, Five Eight endured brush after brush with the kind of fame that turns passion into profession. But even with the lyrical genius of guitaraist/singer Mantioni hailed by critics and musicians alike, Five Eight never got its just due.
Still, the band has endured, and with bassist Horowitz and drummer Patrick Ferguson working with Mantioni on a new album (tentatively titled “Songs for St. Jude”), Five Eight remain vital to a legion — almost cult — of followers. Their albums “The Good Nurse” — hailed as the band’s ultimate masterpiece — and their latest release “Your God Is Dead to Me Now” are universally lauded as seminal works.
Also performing at Saturday’s show will be Abi Permenter, one of Southwest Georgia’s most acclaimed young artists.